“If you ain’t first, you’re last.” That’s a line from a movie. In the movie a dad is giving his son advice. The movie is a spoof and the advice although taken seriously by the son is really just another example of the dads poor parenting.
I was listening to a sermon the other day and something the Pastor said made me think of that line. The Pastor was talking about something his own dad had done when he was a teenager. He described having a disagreement with his father and in his frustration he had said to his mother, “I could kill him.” His dad, having formed a plan to put an end to his sons thought, dismissed him from school early the following day. The dad told his son that he had two guns in the trunk and they were going to a place where they could faceoff. The dad told his son if he didn’t shoot, Dad would. The Pastor acknowledged his dads poor choice of parenting techniques and followed up by saying, “He didn’t really do it, he just let me believe he was going to while I cried for 15 minutes.” But the technique worked and the young Pastor never said anything like that again.
As a parent, I have definitely had my fair share of handling things the wrong way. Often times I handled things the only way I knew how at the time. I’m sure most parents can relate. But I got thinking about the things that we don’t address with our kids. The advice we don’t give them. That same young Pastor talked about how his dad started telling him from a young age that he could be “the first” man in his family to not be an alcoholic. In the past I’ve talked about how I was “the first” to graduate high school on my mothers side of my family. I didn’t know it at the time. I often wonder how much harder I might have worked had I understood the accomplishment that little diploma would mean for future generations.
My own children have all graduated high-school and either gone on to gain technical certifications or are pursuing college. I wonder would they be on the path they are on had I not been the first?
I’m not trying to puff myself up in any way, I say it with complete humility. In fact I began thinking about all the firsts my own children might accomplish in the lineage of our family. Someone could be the first to travel the world. Another might be the first to have a master’s degree. They may be the first missionary, the first senator, the first to serve in the military, the first to beat obesity, depression, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease? It boils down to the choices we make. Decisions. You may be asking, how do we have control over diabetes or cardiovascular disease? The answer is simple, your lifestyle choices. Have you resigned to having a familial disease or are you being proactive and living a healthy lifestyle? Maybe you are the first to choose the healthy lifestyle so your kids can be the first to live without disease. There are lots of things we can do to stay ahead of something in hopes that we may never face that battle. When we look at it from the perspective of having a choice to make, it makes all the difference.
One of my daughters is planning her wedding. We discussed recently how she may be the first woman in at least 3 generations to NOT end her marriage in divorce. No pressure, right. But knowing that, how much more might she put into her marriage to make sure it doesn’t end that way? Coming from a family who has struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction, I can certainly relate to the young Pastors father challenging him, “You could be the first…”. The Pastor said, because of that challenge he had made the decision at a very early age that he would not drink. To this day he does not. His decision is not cocky or full of boasting, it comes from a place of suffering and humility.
I believe when Jesus said, “Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” he meant that those who give their lives to Christ early will have the same reward as those who give their lives to Christ when they are 80. Living your whole life for Christ doesn’t warrant you a greater reward than those who have given their lives to Christ after a lifetime of sin. It is the same reward.
Being first in your family to not struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction could mean you will be the last to face that struggle. Being the last to face that struggle will put you first in a long line of generations to be set free. Something you will have to offer future generations is the humility and appreciation for how good your life is comparatively. What about your own kids? What challenge might you present to them? I may not have been the first to successfully stay married on my first attempt but I’m praying I’ll be the last to end in divorce. After all if you’re not the first, you could be the last.